Our Time Is Now...
The White House Summit on Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection was a watershed moment for both consumers and Cybersecurity professionals. For me it was a personal and proud moment as I have been involved in building public private partnerships (PPP) in this domain since December 18th, 2001. This was the day I arrived in San Francisco from Washington, DC to run the operations for the United States Secret Service Northern California Office. This responsibility also included creating the first Secret Service Electronic Crimes Task Force (ECTF) on the West Coast, which provided the opportunity to partner with private industry in a significant and impactful way.
When I moved to San Francisco I knew nothing about the culture of business, its language and a friend gave me a book so I could learn about venture capital. Although it was a steep learning curve I quickly fell in love with the entrepreneurial spirit of Silicon Valley. This passion turned me into a human sponge and I soaked up as much as possible at every turn. Sometimes one must move out of their neighborhood to truly understand their neighborhood and it soon became very clear that there was an opportunity to make a difference.
Beginning with one other Secret Service Agent we started to rapidly build a community of interest and trust by including Cybersecurity professionals from large and small businesses, entrepreneurs, VCs, academics and CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. Leaders and change agents from Kleiner Perkins, Sequoia Capital, eBay, Wells Fargo, Visa, Cisco and professors and scientists from SRI International, Stanford University, Cal Berkeley and UC Davis quickly coalesced around this emerging problem. We were young in this space and did not fully realize the importance of the journey we were about to embark on. One afternoon one of our young agents came into my office and advised that Phishing was going to be a big problem and I quickly assembled the brilliant minds from Stanford, Cal Berkeley, SRI along with Cisco, eBay, Wells Fargo and the CEOs of small companies to address this challenge. Soon afterwards we were able to obtain a small grant from the DHS S&T Directorate and create a working group in order to build a solution. The lesson leaned here was that by bringing together the diverse attributes of practitioners and academics you can truly create centers of excellence. Stanford Computer Science Professors John Mitchell and Dan Boneh would "white board" a possible solution and the SMEs from Wells Fargo and Cisco would point out why the concept would not work in the real world. A productive back and forth exchange ensued until, ten months later, we eventually got it right with a technology solution called Spoof Guard. This solution was installed in eBay's operating system and had simple red, yellow and green alert buttons, which signaled possible phishing (before we began calling it malware) vulnerabilities. While it was not a sophisticated solution, it was a great example of how a collaborative PPP model could accelerate technology transfer from concept to reality.
These PPP models can and do work with the right champions who have the same sense of purpose and commitment. People inherently desire to be a part of something; all they need is a leader. This experience was critically important in my transition from the public to the private sector and was transformational in that it changed my life and the lives of others for the better.
Over the years the Federal Government has spearheaded multiple conversations on Cybersecurity and they had many senior executives speak publicly about its importance. Unfortunately corporate CEOs have been absent from this dialogue. It was highly significant to have the President lead this Summit and sign the much-needed Executive Order that promotes information sharing between the public and private sectors. But the most important statement of the day was having the CEOs of Fortune 500 corporations, who are owners and operators of critical infrastructure companies, on stage speaking about Cyber. Even if some did not know what they were talking about it didn't matter. What truly mattered was the message they sent just by being in the room. It underscored that Cybersecurity is not only important to them, but it is equally vital to the national security and economic interests of our nation.
A lot of hard work by many government and industry professionals has led us to where we are today and our time is now to ride the momentum of this wave, pick up a ploughshare and go to work. I witnessed many happy people walking around Stanford University on this glorious and sunny day but I was probably the happiest of all...Robert D. Rodriguez
Seven Days in Davos - World Economic Forum
Despite the heavy security, traffic congestion and logistics, the WEF is a trip worth making. Once a year, a juggernaut of the world's thought leaders, politicians, ambassadors and captains of industry from 140 countries convene in this small Swiss town surrounded by the majestic Alps with the mission statement "Committed to Improving the State of the World." Attending the dinners, receptions and meetings proved fascinating and walking around town often led to running into these leaders such as the CEO of BP, who was one of our keynote speakers at last year's Global Cybersecurity Innovation Summit in London.
Cybersecurity dominated much of the forumís discussions, which highlighted the premise that Cyber touches everything. The Cyber Resilience dinner offered numerous discussion points and underscored important topics such as: the need for a robust cyber risk framework, CISOs are the new risk managers who should be reporting at the CEO and Board level, the imperative to achieve clear and concise attribution and deterrence and the idea that we cannot afford to wait for perfect.
The diversity of the forum is one of its strongest values and I found my discussions with others who are in different fields such as robotics or supporting entrepreneurship amongst our next generation as equally stimulating, if not more. However, my spontaneous and serendipitous moment of the week arrived while waiting in line for a gondola after one of the week's nightly dinners when I decided to check out an adjacent restaurant. After ten minutes, I realized the evening was being hosted by one of the top three richest men in the world and he was honoring the men and women who were leading generous and compelling NFPs around the world. Listening to their stories about how they are impacting the world and helping those less privileged than us was inspirational and encouraging. This moment reinforced the importance of not always depending on our world governments to lead, help or fund but rather for those of us in the private sector to contribute to worthy causes that will better society. Curiosity caused me to walk into that restaurant and I was rewarded with the opportunity to listen to their incredible journeys. For me, this moment is what the WEF was truly about...Robert D. Rodriguez
The Sony Problem Highlighted the Imperative For a Well Defined Global Doctrine Relative to Deterrence and Attribution
I was interviewed by National Public Radio (NPR) regarding the attack by North Korea on Sony Pictures. What became very clear to me was the lack of understanding and clarity relative to the proper and accurate response for retribution and deterrence, in particular with the President of the United States interceding and referring to this incident as a case of Cyber Vandalism while other politicians called it Cyber warfare. I disagree with both of them. Presidential Policy Directive 21 designates and outlines our nation's sixteen critical infrastructures and media and entertainment are not one of them. This is more than a bad case of cyber graffiti and although this attack was damaging and destructive it is far from the characteristics of warfare and we must be careful on how we wield this serious word when paraphrasing a particular issue. I call this attack transformational in that it's nature is a sign of the trends we can expect moving into 2015 and onward. A future where attacks will be designed to humiliate, disgrace and intimidate people through extortion and blackmail. Causing those entities or individuals who exercised poor judgement in expressing themselves via social media, email or texts to become highly vulnerable to the extortionist's shakedown demands. Terrorism Terrorism entered this final scene after physical threats were made against the theaters. When Sony decided not to release the movie it then affected one of our nation's greatest treasure, our 1st amendment rights. Unfortunately for future and victims this is only the tip of the iceberg...Robert D. Rodriguez
2014 SINET 16 Innovator Winners
I am proud to announce the selection of this year's class of SINET 16 Innovators. Of our four programs; London, New York City, Silicon Valley and Washington DC the Showcase is my favorite. It is were we are able to provide a platform for 16 innovative entrepreneurs to highlight their solutions in front of 400 investors, builders, buyers and researchers. For those of us in the Cybersecurity space this is an exciting but critical time. The increasing onslaught of attacks against our nation's critical infrastructures and Government systems is clearly driving the need for greater investment, superior innovation and increased awareness of advanced technologies in order to stay ahead of the adversary. Congratulations to this year’s SINET 16 Innovator class who were selected from 185 applications submitted from around the globe by our esteemed steering committee. A big thank you to the Department of Homeland Security S&T Directorate for their continued support of our programs and the small business community.
Robert D. Rodriguez
Chairman and Founder
2014 SINET 16 Innovators
What's New and Upcoming
November 3 & 4, 2015 – The National Press Club, WDC
January 26 & 27, 2016 – The British Museum, London
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